Rock grad Picard earns scholarship

Timmins Rock forward Jordan Picard, shown here cutting to his right to avoid backchecking Powassan Voodoos forward Harrison Israels during Game 3 of the NOJHL East Division semifinal series at the McIntyre Arena on March 20, has committed to attend Portage College in Lac La Biche, Alta., and play for the Voyageurs in 2018-19. Picard wrapped up a three-year NOJHL career with the Rock last season. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)

TIMMINS – Timmins Rock grad Jordan Picard will be continuing his hockey career with the Voyageurs and furthering his education at Portage College in Lac La Biche, Alta.

The 20-year-old Timmins native wrapped up three successful seasons in the NOJHL in 2017-18, splitting the campaign between the French River Rapids (11, 5-8-13, 12) and the Rock (46, 11-17-28,42).

In 13 playoff games with the Rock, Picard added four assists and spent eight minute in the penalty box.

The Rock acquired the 5-10 and 160 pound winger from the Rapids in exchange for fellow forward Donny Schultz on Oct. 6.

Picard broke into the NOJHL with the Iroquois Falls Eskis (10, 0-2-2, 6) during the 2015-16 season.

He started the 2016-17 season with the Eskis (19, 3-4-7, 12), but was dealt to the Rapids (30, 8-16-24, 15) on Nov. 21 in a cash transaction.

“Jordan is a small, skilled forward we believe will be able to score at this level,” said Nate Bedford, coach of Voyageurs men’s hockey team.

“I am familiar with Jordan’s game, having watched him play numerous times in the past three seasons. He is a complete player that will be a good addition up front for us.”

Off the ice, Picard will pursue a business diploma or degree at Portage College.

Rock coach Corey Beer saw a lot of improvement in Picard’s game during his time in Timmins.

“I think it is absolutely terrific for Jordan to get a scholarship,” he said.

“He will be able to continue to play hockey and get an education while he is at it. That’s the goal of probably 80% of the players in Junior ‘A’ hockey.

“He is a guy who was maybe viewed as a one-dimensional player when he first came to us. He was focused on trying to take advantage of the offensive opportunities that came to him, but by the end of the year he was a guy who had bought into being a hard-working player who still had the ability to make plays offensively and create that way.

“He really bought into the team concept of working hard at both ends of the ice. He was blocking shots by the end of the season and backchecking hard, helping out in the defensive zone.

“If you catch Jordan at a candid moment, he would probably say that was not part of his repertoire early on when he first came to us.

“I give him tons of credit for wanting to add that in and finish out his Junior ‘A’ career on a high note.

“As an organization, we were proud of the way he competed as a hometown boy.”

Beer realizes how important it is for players from the organization to be able to secure scholarships once their Junior ‘A’ careers come to an end.

“I think it is incredibly important,” he said.

“We are all pushing to get to somewhere higher.

“Last year, I think we had six or seven guys who moved on to NCAA or CIS schools. Even before that, the guys who played for the franchise when it was the Abitibi Eskimos, Brennan Roy and Brendan Locke, I was extremely close with down in Cobourg.

“They were able to move on and now we are starting to see some of our guys doing the same. We had some other scholarship opportunities, but the guys didn’t want to pursue them.”

In addition to a pair of Rock players declining scholarship opportunities, it is important to note the team only had four 20 year olds on the roster in 2017-18.

The Rock have, of course, also been successful in graduating players to the major junior leagues, as well, with Josh Anderson being the latest when he was promoted to the Rimouski Océanic, of the QMJHL, midway through the 2017-18 campaign.

“We want to be a platform to move guys forward,” Beer said.